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Your Healthy Family: Putting risk into perspective in a pandemic

Posted at 5:11 PM, Apr 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-23 19:11:44-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — No matter what the final decision from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Food and Drug Administration is regarding the use of the single dose Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine going forward, it's important to remember that all medications come with some risk factors.

The initial decision today from the CDC’s Prevention advisory committee is that the use of the J&J COVID vaccine should continue, saying the benefits outweigh the risks.

But for many people, even an extremely small risk of a severe reaction, or worse, from a new vaccine, may not sound like a risk worth taking.

If you stop and think about it, we take risks every day, whether we think about them or not. When analyzing risk as it relates to death, yes, one death is too many, one death isn’t something to be made light of or dismissed, but weighing risk in terms of chances of dying can help add perspective when we are trying to make educated decisions.

Oftentimes things that cause fear don't match the risk they come with. For example, statistically you're at a higher risk of dying in a car accident on the way to the airport than you are from dying in a plane crash. Still, many people may feel safer in their car, than in an airplane.

Risk is defined simply as a situation involving exposure to danger. Based on very basic information, when the use of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine was paused in the United States in early April, the risk of blood clots as a severe reaction were about one in a million.

So how does that stack up with say risk of blood clots from oral contraception? Generally speaking, this risk of blood clots for women - that by the way, are not the same kind of blood clot risk suspected of being tied to the J&J vaccine - is about 1 in 2000. Will women stop taking their birth control pills after learning this information if they didn’t realize it?

Let’s mix in men in other very broad terms of some of the more well-known or common risks of death in general. According to the National Safety Council in the United States in 2019, the odds of dying of a lightning strike were 1 in 138,849. The risk of death riding a bicycle was 1 in 3,825. The risk of death from drowning was 1 in 1,128.

If that doesn't strike close enough to home for you, how about the risks we all generally take in terms of the cumulative effects of our daily choices that lead to heart disease? Remember that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. According to the CDC, your risk of dying of heart disease is 1 in 4.

Just a little food for thought and comparison to try and keep things in perspective.

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